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THE 50/50 PROJECT: Seeing Uluru at sunset

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

This year I had a significant birthday, and so I drew up a list of fifty dreams, ambitions and desires that I call THE 50/50 PROJECT (I guess that gives away what kind of significant birthday I endured!)

The list is not static - as I think of new things I badly want to do, I add it to the list (though this means I have to remove something else.)

However, right from the start I've had on my list:


SEE ULURU AT SUNSET

So my husband and I took a romantic weekend away in early November to visit Ulura in the Red Centre of Australia. We flew into the Ayers Rock Resort on Friday night and stayed at Longitude 131, which is right inside the national park. It's a row of fifteen glamorous 'tents' with amazing views of Uluru - you can watch the sunrise over the rock from your own bed.   


Our first night there we were taken out to see the famous rock change colours as the sun goes down. It really is extraordinary - this huge monolith rising from the flat desert scrub, changing from brown to red to orange to violet as the stars begin to shine. 


We then walked the Field of Stars art installation by the British artist Bruce Munro which was just magical:



(I didn't take this photo - it was too dark by the time we got there. This photo is by Mark Pickthall from AU ABROAD)

Then we had a magical dinner under the stars, while our guides from Longitude 131 told us stories of the stars spread out above us and we listened to a local play the didgeridoo. It was really magical.

Over the next few days we walked into the gorges of Kata Tjuta, and learnt from our guide the convulsive geographical events the led to the formation of Uluru and Kata Tjuta, and were told about many of the fascinating native plants and wild flowers growing in the desert. 



We also walked around the base of Uluru, and heard some of the Dreamtime stories of the local Pitjantjatjara people - you can just imagine how much I loved that. I was particularly struck by how deeply embedded the stories were in the landscape. Many myths of the world have been unanchored from place, but the stories of the Pitjantjatjara are inspired by, and proven by, the unique rock outcrops and waterholes and flora and fauna of the area, and cannot be cut free of them.



We watched the sun set and the moon rise over the great orange mound of rock, and then returned for another delicious meal of local produce - including kangaroo. 



It truly was an amazing experience and I am so glad we went. The lovely people at Longitude 131 looked after us so well, and I learnt so much. 

And I'm happy to have crossed one more thing off my list of The 50/50 Project



BOOK REVIEW: Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

Tuesday, November 29, 2016



BLURB:

Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan is a painfully shy but prodigiously gifted musician. 


She's about to find out she's also a cloverhand—one who can see faeries. Deirdre finds herself infatuated with a mysterious boy who enters her ordinary suburban life, seemingly out of thin air. Trouble is, the enigmatic and gorgeous Luke turns out to be a gallowglass—a soulless faerie assassin. An equally hunky—and equally dangerous—dark faerie soldier named Aodhan is also stalking Deirdre. 


Sworn enemies, Luke and Aodhan each have a deadly assignment from the Faerie Queen. Namely, kill Deirdre before her music captures the attention of the Fae and threatens the Queen's sovereignty. Caught in the crossfire with Deirdre is James, her wisecracking but loyal best friend. Deirdre had been wishing her life weren't so dull, but getting trapped in the middle of a centuries-old faerie war isn't exactly what she had in mind . . .


Lament is a dark faerie fantasy that features authentic Celtic faerie lore, plus cover art and interior illustrations by acclaimed faerie artist Julia Jeffrey.



MY THOUGHTS

Maggie Stiefvater made her name with a series of teen werewolf romances that were a cut above the usual, with acutely realised characters and luminous prose. Lament is similarly a book about a teenage girl falling in love with someone not of her world, though in this book the romantic hero is an assassin sent from the faerie world to kill her. It’s a clever premise, and once again Stiefvater’s teenage characters feel real and alive. 

BOOK REVIEW: The Lost Sapphire by Belinda Murrell

Sunday, November 27, 2016





BLURB:

Marli is staying with her dad in Melbourne, and missing her friends. Then she discovers a mystery—a crumbling, abandoned mansion is to be returned to her family after 90 years. Marli sneaks into the locked garden to explore, and meets Luca, a boy who has his own connection to Riversleigh. 


A peacock hatbox, a box camera and a key on a velvet ribbon provide clues to what happened long ago. In 1922, Violet is 15. Her life is one of privilege, with boating parties, picnics and extravagant balls. An army of servants looks after the family, including new chauffeur Nikolai Petrovich, a young Russian émigré. 


Over one summer, Violet must decide what is important to her. Who will her sister choose to marry? What will Violet learn about Melbourne’s slums as she defies her father’s orders to help a friend? And what breathtaking secret is Nikolai hiding? Violet is determined to control her future. 


But what will be the price of her rebellion?


MY THOUGHTS:

I always love a new timeslip adventure from my brilliant sister, Belinda. In The Lost Sapphire, a teenage girl Marli is reluctantly sent to stay with her father in Melbourne. Things began to get more interesting, though, when she discovers an abandoned house with a mysterious past, and makes a new friend, a boy with his own connection to the house. Meanwhile, back in 1922, Violet lives the high life at the luxurious mansion but a forbidden friendship with her father’s Russian chauffeur opens up her eyes about the world and her own heart. 


A wonderful story for girls who like to imagine what life was like in the past.

BOOK REVIEW: Daughter of The Forest by Juliet Marillier

Saturday, November 26, 2016



BLURB:

Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.

But Sorcha's joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift-by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever. 

When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all...


MY THOUGHTS:

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier is one of my all-time favourite books, that I like to re-read every few years. A retelling of the ‘Six Swans’ fairy-tale, set in ancient Ireland, it is a beautiful story of courage, love, peril and wonder set in a world where magic is only ever a hairsbreadth away from us all. 


THE STORY DOCTOR: How do you know when your manuscript is finally finished?

Monday, November 21, 2016

THE STORY DOCTOR

So many people email me asking me for writing advice I have decided to begin a new section on my blog where I share my answers to these questions. 
Over time, I hope to build a wonderful resource for aspiring writers to help them diagnose what may be ailing their story ... 


Hi Kate, I recently attended your Story Doctor course at the NSW Writer's Centre and loved it! Now I have a question. I've taken the medicine you prescribed, but how do I know when my 'patient' is ready for discharge? How do I know if my manuscript is ready for submission? Any tips would be massively appreciated. Thanks for the course too, it was amazing.


I'm so glad you enjoyed the course! Thank you so much.

It's always difficult to tell - even for established and experienced authors. At some point you've got to let the story go, and try and find a home for it.

My best advice is to use your intuition. Finish the final draft, and put it aside for a few weeks. Do something else. Let your subconscious mind work on it. Whenever a new idea or problem occurs to you, make a note of it, but don't work on the manuscript again. When a month has gone by, read it again with fresh eyes. Make notes of anything that jars you, or that seems like it may be a problem. Add them to your list. When you've read the whole manuscript through again, think about it for a while longer and note down anything that yu think needs a bit more work. Then work through your list slowly and methodically. Type it all up, check it's as clean as can be (i.e. no spelling mistakes or silly grammatical errors), and then think what you'd like to do next.

There are so many different ways to publish a book these days, you need to decide what you'd like personally.

Some authors like the control that comes with self-publishing, others would prefer not to have to worry about designing book covers and self-promotion, and so on. You may need to attend a few publishing seminars to decide what is the best step for you to take now.

Good luck with it!



Kate 



Kate Forsyth has been writing stories since she could first hold a pen, and has since sold more than a million copies worldwide.  She has a Bachelor of Arts in Literature, a Master of Arts in Writing, and a Doctorate of Creative Arts in Fairy Tale Studies, and is an accredited master storyteller. She teaches creative writing at all levels at many different venues. Check out her Appearances Page to find out where she is next speaking.  








THE STORY DOCTOR: How important is research in the writing process?

Friday, November 11, 2016

THE STORY DOCTOR

So many people email me asking me for writing advice I have decided to begin a new section on my blog where I share my answers to these questions. 
Over time, I hope to build a wonderful resource for aspiring writers to help them diagnose what may be ailing their story ... 


Dear 
Kate

I am writing to you to ask, if you have a spare moment maybe you could answer a few questions for me for the essay I am writing on you in my Writer's at Work Class at Sydney Uni. I am a bit behind with my work - I just got a new full time job so trying to complete all my final uni assignments has really piled up! However, I understand you would have a lot going on to, so if you don't have time honestly don't worry about these, I completely understand.

I have decided that I'm going to look into research and its importance in writing. After every time I read a novel of yours, one of the main things I think about is how amazing the sheer amount of research you do for your novels is! 


1. What is the research process you go through for your novels? 

Because all of my books are set in different places and times, I need to go through an extensive stage of learning everything I can about the world of my story before I even start thinking about my characters and plot. I usually start with determining the exact setting and time-frame for the story, and then set out to read everything I can about it. I order a lot of books over the net. I like to own all my research books as I shall mark them with highlighters, scribble notes on them, and return to them again and again. I love Abe Books because I can buy a lot of my books second-hand that way, and I also love Google Books because I can preview the book and see if it is what I need. I do a lot of research online as well, following a trail of breadcrumbs as far as it will lead me before it peters out. 

As I read my research books or search the internet, I make meticulous notes in a notebook, recording the title, the author, the page number etc. This makes it easier for me to find the reference again when I am fact-checking. I also scribble down ideas as they come to me. The research often throws up the events in my story for me. I also note down other books I might need.    

I begin to compile a list of characters, noting down key facts about them - their birth and death dates, their backgrounds, etc. This can sometimes take a long time, because most of my historical novels are inspired by the lives of real women, and so there is often only a few scraps of information about them. For example, when I was writing THE WILD GIRL - the story of Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told the Grimm brothers many of their most famous fairy tales - the only known facts about her life were where she grew up (in Kassel, next door to the Grimm family), her father's occupation (an apothecary), and the dates of her marriage to Wilhelm Grimm and her death. It took some time for me to track down her birth-date, with the help of the local history department at Kassel library, and then I had to imagine many other details of her life by studying the lives of other young German women of the era. I create detailed outlines for each major character, including what I call an idiom dictionary (which is simply a list of favourite words, expressions, curses etc; different for each character.)

I also begin to compile timelines. This will be an ongoing project because each new research book I read will give me another tiny piece of the puzzle. I generally have a general timeline, with only brief notes for each event, and then a much longer timeline that may have as much as a page of notes for each event. I may also create a separate timeline for each major character, for ease of reference when I am working on their stories. 

As I read and research, I draw up lists of questions I need the answer to, and then I will slowly and methodically search out the answer to each question. 

I will also be slowly building a plot-line for my story, thinking about the inner architecture of the story, thematic structures, scenes I wish to include. The more research I do, the more story I have.

I will also search out experts in their field who may be able to help me, and I may employ a translator or research assistant . For example, when I was writing Bitter Greens - a retelling of Rapunzel interwoven with the true life story of Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force, the French noblewoman woman who first wrote the tale - I paid to have all of her fairy tales translated into English, many for the first time.  The stories were written in 1697, and so the French was archaic and the printing very old-fashioned and hard to read. My translator Sylvie really earned her money! 

I also read a lot of social history books as well - I like to know how my characters would have lived. I want to know if they wore underwear, what they ate, what they read, what they did with their urine, if they slept sitting up or lying down ... 

I try to do as much research as I can before I start writing, but the story will always throw up new questions and new problems, and often I will need to stop writing and find out what I need to know before I can go on.

 


2. Have you always done extensive research for each of your novels? Or does the process change for different stories you write? 

Naturally, it depends on what kind of novel I am writing. Research for a 30,000 word children's fantasy novel is obviously much less intense than research for a 160,000 historical novel for adults that has three different time periods in it!



3. One of the problems I have is knowing when you have enough research to start writing, how do you figure this out for yourself? 

I don't really think you can do too much research. The more you know, the more vivid the world will be. 

The trick is to learn as much as you can, internalise it, and then write the story. Too much exposition, too much detail, will weigh your story down. You need to include just enough to make the world feel real for the reader, and no more.

Sometimes authors will use the research process as an excuse to procrastinate. This usually means they are feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the task they had set themselves. In this case, it can be a good idea to begin writing. Writing begets writing, and so it may help them overcome the psychological barrier that is holding them back.

Normally I know I'm ready to start writing when my head is full of scenes and snippets of dialogue and images that are keeping me awake, and I feel that seething excitement in the pit of my stomach as the story comes alive in my imagination    



4. Do you have a passion for research? Is it something you enjoy? 

I love research. I always say that research is simply reading with a purpose. I love to read, and I love to learn, and research allows me to do both at once. I also love the way that research throws up ideas for the story itself. It helps me plan my novel, which I think is absolutely crucial.



5. Some of your characters in your novels are real life historical figures; after having researched these figures, do you ever have trouble trying to fit actual elements of their lives into your storyline? Or do you feel in this case authors have a sense of creative license with them as characters in their story? 

I always take the known facts of their lives, and set those as my immoveable pegs. Then I try and understand the forces that shaped their psyche, and drove them to do what they did, and then weave my imagined story around those known facts.

The best example I can give you is the story of Dortchen Wild's life, which I told in THE WILD GIRL. 

I knew from primary sources such as letters and diaries that Dortchen grew up next door to the Grimm family, and that she first met Wilhelm when she was twelve and he was seventeen. I knew that she had a childish crush on him , thanks to a letter she wrote to her best friend, Lotte Grimm, when she was thirteen. I knew that her sister Gretchen told the very first fairy tale that the Grimm brothers collected when Dortchen was seventeen. I knew that Dortchen herself began to tell Wilhelm stories when she was eighteen, and that she was the source of almost a quarter of the tales in the first collection of fairy tales. I knew that they fell in love, but Dortchen's father forbade her from seeing Wilhelm. I knew that she defied her father, because she continued to tell fairy tales to Wilhelm. In many cases I knew where and when they were when she told him her tales, because Wilhelm wrote the name of the teller and, often in the case of Dortchen, the date and place the story was told in the margins of his first edition copy of the first fairytale collection.

What I did not know was why Dortchen defied her father - a grave misdeamonour for a young German Lutheran woman in the early 1800s - or why she told the stories she did. Some were very dark, very violent, very sexual.

I also knew that Dortchen ended up marrying Wilhelm ... but not till she was thirty, twelve years after the beginning of their romance. 

I would much have preferred her to marry him years earlier! Yet wondering why it took so long helped me to craft a much more interesting and powerful story (or so I believe).            



6. Was the research process for your PhD thesis any different from what you do with your novels?

Not in essence. It's the same slow, laborious reading and sifting of facts and recording of sources and following trails of clues and red herrings to find what is unknown or forgotten. The primary difference is the material I am reading. When researching for a novel, I read very widely and seek to immerse myself fully in the period. When researching for my exegesis, I was reading a lot of academic papers and seeking to understand what others have thought and written about a subject, and then responding to it. The method was the same, the outcome different. 


You may also find a blog post I wrote on '15 Research Tips from Kate Forsyth'  for Writers Bloc on research of interest to you.





VASILISA THE WISE & Other Tales of Brave Girls

Tuesday, November 08, 2016


I have always been a great believer in serendipity. It's as if the universe sees a lacking, or a longing in me, and nudges something I need towards me.

This time serendipity has brought about the most magical conjunction of events, which is going to result in a most beautiful book.

As you probably know, I have long been interested in long-forgotten fairytales and fairytale tellers, and many of my books have been inspired by a desire to save them for obscurity. 

After I finished my Doctorate of Creative Studies in fairy-tale studies, I wanted to buy myself something really special to celebrate. A twitter friend posted the most beautiful picture of a fairy-tale-inspired art work by Lorena Carrington, and I clicked the link which took me to her blog, The Bone Lantern. I read some of her blog posts and looked at some of her exquisite photographic art, and just fell in love with them. She must be a kindred spirit, I thought, to produce such beautiful work. I emailed her to see if I could buy one of her pieces (& ended up being this gorgeous print - it now hangs in my hallway).




I also asked her if I could interview her for my blog, always being interested in profiling the work of other creative artists.

We emailed back and forth, sharing our love of art and fairy-tales and gardens and books, and finding out we had so much in common. She told me that she dreamed of putting together a gorgeously illustrated anthology of little-known fairy tales with strong, brave heroines, and had begun illustrating a few of her favourites already.  I told her that I was interested in doing the same thing. Perhaps we should do one together, we thought.

Both of us were busy with other projects but, whenever we could, we tossed around ideas and stories, and played with images and possibilities. Together we built up an idea of what we'd like to do ... maybe, one day. 

I was hard at work researching & writing my novel about the Pre-Raphaelites but, as soon as I had delivered the manuscript to my publishers, I thought again of this idea of creating something with Lorena.    

I reached out to the universe (i.e. I posted on Facebook): 

One day I'd like to write 
#fairytale retellings of little-known tales with brave, clever heroines for teenage girls to read. Would anyone like to publish stories like that?

And the universe sent me Monique Mulligan of Serenity Press, who replied: Yes!

And so I'm thrilled to announce that Serenity Press will be publishing our fairytale collection Vasilisa the Wise & Other Tales of Brave Girls in 2018.


I will be re-telling seven extraordinary little-known fairy-tales (including one written by Charlotte-Rose de la Force, the true-life heroine of my novel Bitter Greens), and Lorena will be illustrating them with her beautiful art.

Never tell me magic does not happen!






WIN! Signed hardback copies of BITTER GREENS & THE WILD GIRL!

Friday, November 04, 2016


Whenever I finish a novel, like I did last week, I have a long list of things to do ... including updating my website.

One thing I've been meaning to do for a long time is have a page of endorsements from people who have done a creative writing workshop with me, or heard me speak, or tell a story. I know authors who very cannily hand out forms to students at the end of every class or session, then have them displayed on their website within hours.

I'm afraid I'm not so canny.

So I'm reaching out to anyone who has ever ever heard me speak or teach to be so kind as to give me a line or two that I can quote on my website. It'd be great if you can also say what course you did, or whether it was a storytelling session or an author talk that you heard.  

In thanks, I am offering a chance to win a signed hardback copy of  BITTER GREENS and THE WILD GIRL to anyone who endorses me (I will put all the names in the hat & draw one out on December 5.) 

You can leave your endorsement in the Comments below, or on my Facebook page, or tag me on Twitter - and each new endorsement will get you another chance to WIN!

Thank you all in advance!





AUSTRALIAN WOMEN WRITERS CHALLENGE! Make November the month to read as much as you can

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

It's been a really busy year for me, and much of my reading has been proscribed for me by research for my new work-in-progress Beauty in Thorns.  This means lots of neo-Victorian literature and gorgeous thick books on Pre-Raphaelite art.

Now the manuscript has been sent off to my publishers, I'm aiming to catch up on some reading for pleasure. And I've decided to make November the month I attempt to catch up with the Australian Women's Writers challenge. I really want to help and support the work of my fellow Australian women, and what better way than to read & review their work? 

Last year I only read 10 books by Australian women writers, and I am absolutely determined to do better this year!

So I've been on a shopping spree, and dug out a pile from my to-be-read bookshelf, and am eagerly wondering what I will discover.

Here are the books I'm going to try and read. I hope I get though them all!  

 



Why don't you give it a go too? See if you can read as many as I do. And let me know what treasures you discover. 




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